I had the pleasure and privilege to not only live with a Telemark for a few weeks now but also to spend an afternoon with the lighthouse keeper of the British independent watch industry – Giles Ellis at the Schofield HQ.
Schofield Watches has been around for several years now, gathering a solid group of dedicated owners/fans and an even larger circle of appreciators among the design-conscious.
We first met at Salon QP in, I believe 2012, where they caused quite a stir with a very individualistic offering. One of the most knowledgeable industry journalists, Ken Kessler remarked on Giles as “a man of taste and style” and noted that Schofield “bring a breath of fresh air to the British watchmaking” – few who know Giles would disagree with that. Since then, I have been regularly checking-in with Giles and following the evolution of Schofield Watch Co and products on offer – once ‘infected’ it is hard not to be a lifetime subscriber and become a fan of the brand. Watches aside, Giles is superbly well informed, and quite opinionated on all matters of product design and obsessive of detail and quality.
During the visit, we spoke about music, high-end speakers, handbags (yes, handbags), DIY (plastering, tiling, etc.), among many other things. Suffice to say that Giles either wrote the day off as he did not get to do much work during the visit or had to stay late to catch-up.
His compulsion with detail and the drive to explore the new and push the next Schofield product to a new level is bordering on obsessive. Coupling this with his story-telling skills – you are likely to spend many hours listening slack-jawed.
The HQ itself is a cosy, richly textured and dark-panelled affair arranged with the interior design efficiency of a ship cabin. The only places to sit were at ‘production-points’ – no chilling’ at basecamp. Here you will find an interesting stash of samples, development pieces and generally nuggets of Schofield heritage – waiting to be assembled into a possibly one-off variant of an existing model for a discerning customer.
Over the past years Schofield has gone from strength to strength, constantly pivoting around the “Nexus of Niche” concept, producing immensely stylish, yet brave and bold designs, including the decidedly clever and quirky Blacklamp, via my all-time favourite Schofield watch – The Daymark, the unapologetic Bronze Beater, the round shield that is the Signalman Bare Bones – all the way to Telemark – the latest addition to the Schofield collection.
The Heroes of Telemark
The journey of the Telemark is an equally as captivating as any Giles is likely to take you on.
The watch gets its name from, and is in some ways inspired by the classic 1965 war film starring Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris along with Ulla Jacobsson – The Heroes of Telemark – a romanticised re-enactment of the true story of a group of Norwegian resistance fighters, who during the WWII destroy the Norsk Hydroelectric plant at the Rjukan waterfall in southern Norway – hampering Germany’s plans of producing an atomic bomb.
The watch pays homage not just to the movie, but to the whole era in more ways than one. There is a strong visual reference of the clarity of the Bernex Barracuda as worn by Kirk Douglas in the movie, continuing through the vast whiteness of the watch face hinting at Norwegian snowy slopes, as well as nods toward the cleanliness of the Nordic and Scandinavian design of the late 1930s and 40s.
Unboxing the Telemark is a ritual in itself – not far off a Japanese tea ceremony. After a titter at the included Heroes of Telemark DVD, we get on with the business.
The exquisite wooden case arrived well packed in a robust bespoke padded box. Lifting the case out using the bright Schofield-designed sash is… well, sexy – no other way of putting it. You tease more than pull, with the box holding out against just enough to make it a touch more of a playful affair.
With the box out – it becomes clear that the dark Osmo Ash cube is a superbly crafted memento in itself – a testament to the carpenter’s skills and Giles’ never ceasing attention to quality, detail and design improvements. I have been on $$-million boats with inferior furnishings to this.
Under the lid there is one more layer of engraved wood to be raised before finally uncovering the nucleus of the box – that is the Telemark. …at this point I wonder if the box has any hidden compartments released through a clever system of some sort. Realising there aren’t any, I was not sure if I felt glad or disappointed. Figuring out that the panel bearing the Schofield logo that secures the manual to the inner lid is magnetic rather than wedged in took me a little while – the magnets are unusually strong, and unless you know this, you worry about pulling too hard in case it is attached in a different way and it breaks.
Fast forward to the Telemark out of the box. The watch face is well designed with little details dotted around it. Every single shape on the ‘submarine dial’ has a very good reason to be exactly where it is and looking exactly as it should and adding to the story of Telemark.
I catch myself humming the Whistleblowers by Laibach and at the same time wondering if Giles could host a seminar solely on the various considerations made during refining the Telemark watch face.
Note: BTW – yes, he could – and it would be a great one to attend …the reason behind omitting the pip below the ‘6’, why the date in the 4:30 position, the detail surrounding the date and engraved on the crown showing the Unicode symbol for a lighthouse, the shape of hands resembling the beams of light projected out of a lighthouse, etc. The considerations seem extraordinary. I could picture Giles pacing around with rolled-up sleeves as graphics swap places on the screen behind him …whilst the heads of the audience seated in the semi-darkness move in sync to follow him around the stage.
The attention to detail and the somewhat mysterious embellishments extend to the crown as well as the caseback. The depicted Jomfruland lighthouse detail is hidden to all but the person wearing the watch. The caseback-art has become an interesting feature on Schofield watches of late – we can hope that in time additional customisation would be on offer.
Living with a Schofield Watch
The Telemark, as all other Schofield pieces to date, forms a decent chunk on the wrist – that said, not bothersome at all – unlike some other oversized watches, I had the chance to wrap around my medium-wrist. It feels solid and well thought out. It takes a few minutes to get used to as with anything new around the wrist, but after that, you barely notice it is there. The strap is comfortable and the curvature of the lugs feels just right.
It is designed primarily as a rugged men’s watch, however, I have seen Schofield washes worn with much style by both genders and wrists of different sizes, which makes me contemplate the application of well-thought-out classic design principles typical of Giles’ methods. The Telemark has all the signs of becoming a cult classic. The white face and strong lines work wonderfully with a multitude of straps – equally ready for business and party. Typically, this angle is also covered by the ‘Schofield and Cudd’ partnership. The Telemark goes 200m underwater and night times are illuminated with the hands and markers coated in Super-LumiNova. The vapour-blasted stainless steel case helps the light-faced watch blend well with different straps and styles of clothing.
Under the dial, the Telemark is powered by the very reliable ETA 2824-2 movement with a 38-hour power reserve – which is perfectly adequate as it is not likely it will linger much in the drawer or on the dresser – as with all Schofield watches – they are made to be worn.
The story of Schofield Watch Co does not even pause with the Telemark. Giles is already working on the next piece which has all the hallmarks of Schofield design excellence. Having seen some of the proposed visuals – I wholeheartedly look forward to the official unveiling of Obscura. A piece that is very likely to replace the Daymark as my favourite Schofield watch.
For further information visit: schofieldwatchcompany.com
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